- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

There were enough movie stars at Wednesday night's screening of "The Rosa Parks Story" to draw some very busy lawmakers away from the campaign-finance reform debate on Capitol Hill so that the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement" might be honored.
That would be Rosa Parks, of course, the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in the segregated Alabama of 1955, setting off the seminal Montgomery bus boycott with Martin Luther King Jr. and, by anyone's account, changing history. As actress Cicely Tyson put it, "That one act of inaction has moved the entire world."
Miss Tyson plays Rosa Parks' mother in the film, which airs on CBS next Sunday night. Angela Bassett stars as Mrs. Parks, and Tonea Stewart ("In the Heat of the Night," "A Time to Kill") plays her best friend, Johnnie Carr. All three actresses were on hand at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for the reception and screening, with the petite Miss Bassett most striking in black leather.
Washington's own civil rights legend Dorothy Height spoke for the approximately 300 persons present when she said, "Rosa Parks sat down so that you and I could stand up with more dignity."
That's why, she added, "This is more than a film to us."
It's also why the audience included Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, Reps. Diane Watson (the honorary host), Loretta Sanchez , Julia Carson, and John Conyers , who is Mrs. Parks' congressman and close friend. (She has lived in Detroit since 1957.)
Mrs. Parks, 89, is ailing and was unable to make the trip to Washington for the tribute, although she read the script and offered suggestions to ensure its authenticity.
The film, which already has been screened in cities across the country, is undeniably a made-for-TV production (cue the stirring music before increasingly frequent commercial breaks). It was finished in 19 days in Montgomery under the direction of Julie Dash, director of the 1992 release "Daughters of the Dust."
Ms. Dash described her latest work as "a love story told within the context of the civil rights movement." The focus is on Mrs. Parks' early years and relationship with her husband, Raymond. According to the story line, the marriage grew strained when she asserted her independence by joining the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, soon becoming more of a righteous activist than a demure wife.
She was both angry and dignified, Miss Bassett explained. "She wasn't just a seamstress whose feet were tired that day."
Tha actress who was kept apart from non-VIP guests and press by a Hollywood-style red rope called the experience of portraying such an extraordinary woman "pretty awesome … She gave up a lot so that we could get so much."
Christina Ianzito


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